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Beauty in the world


There's alot about this world that is hard, ugly, painful and broken.  Just watch the news or read headlines and that becomes immediately clear.  Or have a heart to heart talk with someone and it won't be long before once again you are reminded of the pain and brokenness of the world as that conversation goes beneath the surface to the tender and vulnerable places of people's lives.  Or simply think about our own personal stories.  Failures, missed opportunities, hurts either imposed by others or that we imposed, and so on.  It can be downright discouraging.

A shift that I have sensed occurring in my own life over the last several years is to be able to see beyond the brokenness of the world in a whole new way.  Increasingly, as I view the world I see Beauty. There really is Beauty in the world.  It was there all along, I'm sure, and I just wasn't able to see it as clearly as I do now. Maybe its a result of getting older, or maybe its an answer to prayers I've prayed over the years to be able to view the world around me through the eyes of the Creator. I don't really know, I just know I find myself amazed throughout the day.  It matters because I see people, life and situations in a different light. Small things seem so amazingly beautiful.  Here are some examples from just the past few days:

  • Laying next to my daughter at bedtime and listening to old Christmas classics together on the iPad before she goes to sleep
  • Watching one of my students interact with a very sick elderly lady in such a caring and compassionate manner
  • Seeing the love on the husband's wrinkled face for this same elderly lady
  • The way the sun comes streaming in through a window to shine light on the bed of a sick person
  • Sitting and drinking coffee in the quiet of the early morning hours before everyone is up
  • Bringing eggrolls home, thanks to my mom, from the Relief Sale for my son and seeing how happy he is (he LOVES eggrolls)
  • Gazing out the window and being drawn in by the various shades of color and textures of living things
  • Looking up into the vast blue sky and noticing the shapes and contours of the clouds above the busyness below
  • Watching things move in the wind
  • Seeing people able to laugh and smile through their own personal pain.
Maybe, too, why this might matter is that part of how God makes all things new is simply by helping us to see things in a new way.  At any rate, may we each be able to see the incredible beauty in this world.

Finally, I leave you with one of my all time favorite songs....Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Goal Setting 101: Begin with the end in mind

I am currently supervising student nurses in a long term care facility.  Today was our clinical day on a large unit of beautiful elderly people. It's an environment that I am unexpectedly finding to be conducive to the personal goal-setting process that I'm in the midst of.

I talked with one elderly gentleman in particular today who sits by the nurses station, talks with anyone who goes by and is really very pleasant and friendly. While his strength is failing, his mind is completely intact. Today after we had talked a bit I asked him if he had ever been married. He said he had and then became emotional when he went on to tell me that his wife had died after 50 years of marriage.  I said,
"That must have left a big hole in your life."
 He agreed and went on to say, "Now I just sit and wait."
"For what?", I asked.
"For the next thing. For whatever happens next."

Watching these precious elderly folks, and listening to them, makes me reflect quite a bit on what I want the end of my life to look like.  Of course none of us really know what's ahead and many people end up in places and situations that might have occurred only in their worst nightmares but I do think there is some wisdom in at least attempting to look ahead and envision what perhaps could be in those final years.  I think that if we don't, we may end up just waiting for the next thing to define the moment, the day, the week, the year for us.  As Stephen Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind."  In other words, what do I want the end of my life to look like and then back up from there to know what I need to be doing  now to get there.

Even in old age [the godly] will still produce fruit.  They will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:14



Goals

I've been thinking lately that it's time to establish more goals for my life.  I could perhaps have another 40-50 years  to live life (by the year 2050, it's projected that there will be at least a million people over the age of 100).  Right now, I have about 10 very specific goals (or, dreams)  that I have identified that have not yet been fulfilled.  So if you do the math, that means I'm accomplishing 1 goal every 4 or 5 years.  Hmmm... I think I can do better than that.  In fact, I think I need to do better than that.  Having a sense of purpose and a vision for our lives is part of what leads to a fulfilling, alive, and God-honoring life.  So, I've been prayerfully thinking about all of this, writing down thoughts and refining some of the goals I have had to be very specific and measurable.  I'm also working on identifying goals that I haven't ever really clearly articulated before.

 With God, all things are possible (Jesus)
On top of that, I'm challenged to identify goals/ dreams that go beyond what I am capable of accomplishing in my own strength and know-how.  Many of the goals I am working on are  big enough that if they happen it will only be because of God.

Bill Gates has said, "People overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years."  It seems that most of us have busy schedules and its easy to get caught in the trap of not taking the time to think beyond what happens this day.  Writing  goals down and keeping them visible can serve as a daily reminder to us of what is important.  So, when 10 years goes we can look back and celebrate the accomplishments of that decade.

Currently, these are the goal categories:
  • Family
  • Influence
  • Service
  • Gifts, talents and skills
I'm also aware that what we do comes out of who we are.  So I'm doing the background work of asking myself what kind of person I want and need to be in order to achieve the things that I want to do in life.

And, finally and most importantly, anything worthwhile ultimately comes out of that place of knowing and walking with God.  Jesus said, 'Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15)



I Found It

Years ago, before I was married and moved, I lived in Muncie, Indiana, near the campus of Ball State University. I also happened to live near a historic neighborhood of streets lined with large oaks and old homes (mansions to me) where many of the influential families of Muncie lived.  Given my love for architecture, and especially historical architecture, it was so much fun to walk through that neighborhood, especially at night when I could maybe get a glimpse inside the lit up windows.  And then on the other side of that neighborhood was a Catholic Church that always reminded me of the pictures I had seen of old European cathedrals.  The church had extensive grounds and at the back was a garden area with statues of the saints and a gazebo. I spent many hours in that gazebo that overlooked the manicured gardens. From the gazebo, I could also see in the distance the old structure of the church, with a spire that seemed to reach up to heaven.  Add a full moon to the experience and it was nothing short of transcendent.

There was a period of time in Muncie, after I had graduated from Ball State and many of my friends had moved away, that life was really tough.  Looking back, I can see how formative those years were for me.  God was processing me, sharpening my sense of values and call, and deepening me. If you've been through a season like that- a dark night of the soul- you know how dang hard it can be. Walking to the Catholic church  after dark, through that old historic neighborhood, became a real haven for me at that time. Looking back, I realize it probably wasn't the safest thing for a young woman to be hanging out in lonely dark places at night,  but I can say that I met God in significant ways in that garden behind the church after dark. Even though its been many years since I've been there, I can still see it clearly in my mind because it became such a special place to me. A place where I met God.

After I moved away from Muncie, for many years I felt the loss of a place that I could go and experience God in such meaningful ways. A place that seemed like it had just been tailor made for me to spend time thinking and praying.

This morning, however, as I was taking a walk on the Mill Race it occurred to me how that path really  has become a place for me to walk and experience God, especially in the mornings. This morning was just perfect:  the crisp, early fall air was filled with the bright sunshine of a crystal clear day.  Although the path isn't nearly as private as the gazebo in Muncie at night, it really is such a gift to have a place to go that I can expect to meet God, to hear God's voice and to know his presence.  For whatever reason, it seems like its taken a long time to feel as though I have found a meaningful place to go to be with God, but I can say I have finally found it. And I am so glad.

What about you?  Do you have a place that is special to you that you can go to be alone, think, and pray?  I would love to hear about it!